Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

With Deadline Approaching, A-F Panel Still Discussing How To Measure Growth

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, right, and Southwest Allen Schools Superintendent Steven Yager co-chair the panel reviewing Indiana's A-F accountability system.

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, right, and Southwest Allen Schools Superintendent Steven Yager co-chair the panel reviewing Indiana's A-F accountability system.

To date, the panel rewriting the state’s A-F accountability system has spent three meetings discussing on how Indiana should measure student growth moving forward.

Right now, schools receive bonus points based on how much their students are growing compared to their peers across the state. But this spring, the Indiana General Assembly threw out that system, telling state education officials to instead focus on measuring individual student growth.

So the panel has been talking about how to calculate that measurement. But as one member pointed out Tuesday, the group only has until Nov. 1 to make that recommendation to the State Board of Education.

“I’m getting worried we’re about halfway through our meetings,” says Indiana Chamber of Commerce Vice President Derek Redelman, “and if we aren’t getting some models in front of us, we’re not going to be able to complete our task by the end of the month.”

Redelman asked when the panel would be able to see some statistical pieces.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, who is co-chairing the group with Southwest Allen County Superintendent Steve Yager, told Redelman the focus right now is on creating the conceptual framework.

“Once we narrow some things down today, they can go back and say, ‘Here’s conceptually what this whole model looks like,” says Ritz. “Then we’d have the model pieces we would be using.”

Ritz and Yager told StateImpact last month the plan is to have a working model to send to the State Board for review. But Ritz told Redelman that may leave some statistical work to be done after the Nov. 1 deadline.

The State Board is planning to meet twice next month to consider the recommendation of the panel, since the state legislature has given that group a Nov. 15 deadline. It’s possible the State Board could go a different direction than the panel, but at least one education policy watcher doesn’t think that’s likely.

“I can’t imagine the State Board not taking seriously their recommendation, given the make-up of the commission,” says David Dresslar, the executive director of The Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning at the University of Indianapolis.

Dresslar points out the governor, the state superintendent and the state’s top Republican leaders all had a chance to appoint representatives to the A-F panel:

Having these representatives appointed by these various officials really puts this whole process in the sunshine and causes their deliberations to be public. They have a gargantuan task ahead of them, but as a group, I think they’re very much up to it.

I think many of the issues that have been discussed with regard to A-F have been discussed for a couple of years now. It’s not like it’s new territory that we’re exploring. It’s territory that we explored. What’s new is that we now have a commission that’s going to make recommendations — and it’s a bi-partisan commission.


  • KathyK

    The system in place doesn’t just give bonus points for student growth, but also subtracts points if students don’t “grow” “enough” (as compared to their peers- by creating cohort groups based on all the students in a given grade who score at a particular scale score and comparing the scale scores of that cohort, and dividing those students into three basic groups, the bottom third more or less as low growth, the middle third as average and the top group as high growth, with some not quite clear other mysterious formula perhaps also factored in which uses students past performance.) So even in a cohort of high performing students, defined by their scale score, a third of them must be defined as low growth. If the tests tests mastery of a set of standards that change from grade to grade, that is the standards themselves define an advancement in understanding of the next grade level understandings, and the test tests that with validity and reliability (which is another question) then IF THE STUDENT PASSES, they have already demonstrated a year’s growth by mastering that year’s standards. It is a good idea to notice when a student is “behind” in terms of mastery of the standards, that is they don’t pass, and they make progress, say from being way off the mark to getting closer, but if a student consistently passes, and the test means something, then they are growing a reasonable amount. It will surely vary from year to year on an individual basis, and a classroom and school size won’t be statistically a large enough size to make judgements of quality on the basis of that variation in “growth” to give a “grade”. This is complicated and worrisome.

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